Are students drowning in the stream?

– Guest post by Dr. Michael Harvey @Doctor_Harves

recent education report from Tokona Te Raki has argued the streaming, also known as ability grouping needs to stop as it disproportionately affects the academic performance of Māori and Pāsifika students. Having now read the report, the paper does have a statistically significant conclusion that Māori does not have the same long-term outcomes as non-Māori, however, this is a correlation and not necessarily the cause of this underachievement.

So yeah, I decided to go down the internet rabbit hole and see what the global situation was and if indeed streaming was a major cause of Māori educational underachievement. First things first let me define my terms so anyone reading knows what exactly what I am talking about. ‘Streaming’ is used to describe a variety of approaches by which students with similar levels of current achievement (note I do not say ability) are consistently grouped together for lessons.‘Streaming’ can involve grouping students into classes for all or most of their lessons or only for some, in particular Maths, English, and Science.

In the New Zealand context, most students in different streams follow the same curriculum. The purported aim of streaming is to enable more effective and efficient teaching by being able to focus on learners with similar achievement in those subjects, in the hope to improve or enhance that achievement (think gifted and talented). Although this approach is sometimes described as ‘ability grouping’, I would see this more as ‘achievement’ rather than ‘ability, as schools generally use measures of current performance, rather than measures of ability, to group their students.

So after wading through the research (see the reference list at the bottom), just how effective is streaming? On average, students whose classes are streamed make slightly less progress than students taught in mixed achievement classes. The evidence suggests that streaming has a very small negative impact for low and mid-range achieving students and a very small positive impact for higher achieving students.  So, the effects are small, and it appears that streaming is not an effective way to raise achievement for most students although it is unclear whether the achievement at lower ends is due to streaming or other factors.

Other effects on students must also be considered, however, such as the effect on their confidence. I remember the effect on my friends at high school when they were told they were in 9J “stingray”, and being labeled stingers – the bottom feeders of the ocean. The research I looked at from the broader evidence base concludes that grouping students on the basis of achievement may have long-term negative effects on the attitudes and engagement of low achieving students, for example, by discouraging the belief that their achievement can be improved through effort and reinforcing the idea they were ‘born dumb’ and that intelligence is not malleable.

2012 OECD review concluded that streaming students is not associated with higher learning outcomes and that students from low-income families are likely to be negatively affected. Although the report did not go on to investigate the effect on local indigenous communities – though poverty is a large part of those community experiences globally.

But what of the actual research, is it reliable and can it be used to make inferences into best educational practice? The evidence on streaming that I read had been accumulated over at least 50 years and there are a large number of studies, some involving large student groups others with small. The conclusions on the impact of streaming are relatively consistent across different evidence reviews and meta-analyses. However, most of the reviews present relatively basic analysis and few investigated the different pedagogical approaches being used in the different extremes of the streamed classrooms. They do not explore whether effects vary between different interventions and the evidence base would benefit from new reviews which address these issues in more depth. Overall, the evidence is rated as limited.

One example of this is that the majority of the experimental evidence comes from the USA, and there are few rigorous experimental studies from other countries like New Zealand and the impact on indigenous communities. There was more evidence from secondary schools than primary schools, as streaming is more commonly used for older students. 

So there, you go, streaming has a small effect either way on overall learning for both low ability and high ability groupings and there is little support for the claim that streaming is the cause of Māori or Pāsifika underachievement – though such research is scant either way. So we must look to develop our pedagogy as educators to cater to the diverse needs of our students, no matter their present achievement 

References:

Collins, C. A., & Gan, L. Does Sorting Students Improve Scores? An Analysis of Class Composition.
(No. w18848). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. (2013)


Duflo, E., Dupas, P., Kremer, M. Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya American Economic Review 101 (5): pp 1739-1774. (2011)

Dunne, M., Humphreys, S., Dyson, A., Sebba, J., Gallannaugh, F., & Muijs, D. The teaching and learning of pupils in low-attainment sets. Curriculum Journal, 22(4), 485-513. (2011)

Hallam, S., & Ireson, J. Secondary school pupils’ satisfaction with their ability grouping placements.
British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 27-45. (2007)

Hanushek, E. A. & Woessmann, L. Does educational tracking affect performance and inequality? Differences-in-differences evidence across countries. CESifo working papers, No. 1415. (2005)

Henderson, N. D. A meta-analysis of ability grouping achievement and attitude in the elementary grades
Doctoral dissertation, Mississippi State University, Mississippi: Department of Curriculum and Instruction
(1989)

Ireson, J., Hallam, S. & Plewis, I. Ability grouping in secondary schools: Effects on pupils’ self-concepts.
British Journal of Educational Psychology 71. 2, pp 315-326. (2001)

Ireson, J., Hallam, S., Mortimore, P., Hack, S., Clark, H. & Plewis, I. Ability grouping in the secondary school: the effects on academic achievement and pupils’ self-esteem. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, the University of Sussex at Brighton, September 2-5 1999. (1999)

Kulik, J.A., & Kulik, C.L.C. Effects of ability grouping on student achievement. Equity and Excellence in Education, 23(1-2), 22-30. (1987)

Tereshchenko, A., Francis, B., Archer, L., Hodgen, J., Mazenod, A., Taylor, B., Pepper, D., & Travers, M. C. Learners’ attitudes to mixed-attainment grouping: examining the views of students of high, middle and low attainment. Research Papers in Education, 1-20 (2018)

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Spaces: #21for21 Great Ideas from Educators

If you haven’t heard about Spaces EDU, now is definitely the time to check it out. Besides offering a lot for educators and students when it comes to creating digital portfolios and building the essential skills to be prepared for now and in the future, they’re offering a lot more for educators this month!

Check out the 21 Educators, 21 interviews and the 21 days of giveaways to teachers. The #21for21 is a podcast series in which each teacher shares their experiences, what has worked for them in the classroom and what they believe we need to provide for our students in order to be successful in our 21st century world. Make sure you subscribe to the 21for21 newsletter to be entered into the giveaways, and check out each of the 21 videos available.

Each educator offers some helpful tips about preparing students for a skills-based world through real-world experiences, promoting communication and collaboration skills, and more. Take some time to listen to each idea and borrow it for your classroom!

Listen to each and click “Tweet to vote” for your favorite “Borrow and Share idea. Check out the great prizes still to be given away. The top five educators with the most votes will win cash prizes for their classrooms. 

Sharing PBL for my Borrow and Share!

Preparing for the Future with Spaces

It is important that educators find ways to  better understand students and their interests in learning. Having the right tools or methods in place, can help with not only supporting students on their learning journey, it helps with building those vital teacher-student relationships. A key part of this is that it helps to focus on the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills as students build their self-awareness and also self-management skills, when they look at the work that they’ve done and set new goals for their continued learning journey.

portfolios enable us to be able to give authentic, meaningful feedback to students and develop a better understanding of each student’s strengths and needs. These “spaces” also help to build relationships as we get to know our students and their learning needs and strengths more. 

Spaces provides a great choice for creating digital portfolios and more. Through digital portfolios, students can choose and compile artifacts of the work that they have done throughout the year or during a PBL experience. By including samples of projects or even reflections on career explorations or participation in community activities that they engaged in during their high school career, educators and future employers will be able to see student growth over time. Portfolios are a great way for students to show their learning journey. Creating portfolios in a digital space gives students the opportunity to self-assess, track their growth over time as they build their narrative. With the use of digital portfolios, we help students focus on their own learning journey as they develop these other essential skills. 

Students can record their daily work, reflect on their learning experiences and express their thoughts, which is a beneficial way to promote the continued development of SEL skills. Teachers can assess students and provide real-time feedback. It also helps students to share their work publicly and build confidence in learning.  Get started with Spaces today!

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Ziplet: A great tool for SEL and exit tickets

Having taught the majority of this school year in hybrid and fully virtual teaching, finding ways to assess students and to check-in with them regularly was a challenge.

As a Spanish teacher, it is important for me to know how they are doing with the content and how they are doing in general. I started to use Ziplet, which helped me to better understand where students were in ​the learning​ process​, do a quick check-in ​to monitor wellbeing, or use it for an exit ticket at the end of class.​ ​

When I look for digital tools ​to enhance instruction, ​whether virtual, hybrid or in-person, having a versatile tool like ​Z​iplet makes it easier to involve students in learning and be able to gauge their understanding quickly.

During this school year, as I had to transition between these learning environments, using Ziplet helped me with staying consistent when it comes to communication. I can send a quick announcement to my students in the group, ask questions and check in with them to see how learning is going or ask about any challenges that they are facing for just a few examples.

​Getting started​

​Using the question templates available within Ziplet makes it easy to get started quickly. ​What I appreciate is that you can choose from the response types which include emojis, ​multiple choice, open response​s​, or a rating scale. I like to select two different response types such as asking ​students an open-ended question and doing a quick check-in using an emoji​ or a scale.

Questions can be saved under your favorites so that you don’t have to create a new question every single time you use it.

[template options with sample questions that appear for each]

​Reviewing responses​

Accessing student responses is simple and through the scale or emoji options, it’s easy to get a quick glimpse at how students are feeling about a particular topic or their well-being in general.

Asking a quick question such as “How do you feel about the lesson covered?” and using the scale of 1 to 5 makes it easy to gauge a student’s responses and the text response helps students to elaborate or reflect on the lesson. Answers can be posted anonymously and responses are private between student and the teacher.

Messaging with Ziplet

You can also use Ziplet to send a quick message to your class. Since Ziplet integrates with Google Classroom, you can easily import your student roster and share questions directly.

If your school does not use Google Classroom, students can join using the group code provided by the teacher or can be added with email. You can use the email to post a question and students will receive an email message or a notification through the Ziplet app.

Ideas to get started

Start class with a quick check-in to see how students are doing or ask specific questions about the prior lesson. Another great idea is to use Ziplet for a 3-2-1 exit ticket which encourages students to think closely about what they are learning and help them to become more self-aware which is great for developing SEL skills.

Check out the example exit ticket ideas for different content areas here.

Key features

  • Ziplet meets all privacy and security requirements, COPPA and GDPR Compliant
  • Collect classroom or even school wide responses instantly
  • Use it for a daily check-in or a weekly reflection
  • Create announcements to share with students
  • Schedule questions in advance
  • Promotes timely and authentic feedback

Creating accounts

There are several options for getting started with Ziplet including a free plan for teachers to create up to three groups with 50 students and two teachers per group. There are additional plans including Ziplet Plus, a custom plan for K through 12 schools and even one for higher education.

Upgraded plans include unlimited groups and students with many additional features such as student response filtering, reply to all, ability to export response data, and more.

Ziplet, founded in 2016 and based in Melbourne, Australia is being used in more than 10,000 institutions including schools, universities and even in corporate training environments.

Ziplet is available on the App store and Google Play. Getting started with a new digital tool often takes time but that’s not the case with Ziplet as there are preloaded questions available that teachers can use to get started right away!

About the Author

Rachelle Dene Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education.

Rachelle is the author of five books available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Rdene915.

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Increasing Independent Work time can mitigate learning loss

Guest post by Lis Bluford, @LisBluford @EdLightPBC

To accelerate learning, we need to focus on student work output daily.

Students show us their learning every day. It’s our job to give them time to show us their understanding and listen.

Authentic student work should be at the center of learning.

As part of my role at EdLight, I’m constantly observing remote classrooms of all ages. One of my greatest takeaways is how few classrooms prioritize independent work time.

I recently observed a 60-minute lesson where the teacher skillfully modeled a procedure and engaged 100% of students in a guided practice. While this was impressive, I kept waiting for students to have a chance to apply the learning themselves through independent work or an exit ticket time. It never came.

Unfortunately this has become a trend with remote / hybrid learning. Perhaps it’s the camera that makes us want to perform, but for whatever reason, teachers are reluctant to have students working independently + quietly.

Supported independent work time is the number one thing you can do to increase learning, whether you are in person or remote.

When I was teaching in person, administrators were confused by the sheer volume of work completion in my classroom. I reserved at least half of class time or more for supported independent work. And it worked — my students performed at the top of our network of schools.

Silently watching students working may feel uncomfortable, but time spent trying hard on challenging tasks is never wasted. Here is why that matters, even in remote learning:

Benefits for Students

Independent work is important in building stamina. As students grow older, they are required to sit and work alone for longer periods of time. As a teacher, I have to facilitate this ability to focus for a sustained block or on a single project.

This is one of the best ways to support students of various learning styles and personalities. For students who are quieter and more reserved in group discussions, this might be the only time you get to understand if they really “get it.” You can’t hide behind independent work.

With the increase in formative remote learning tools (selecting a multiple choice answer, drawing on a trackpad) students have minimal opportunity to interact with content with pencil and paper. Handwritten work facilitates deep thinking in a new way, gives students a welcome break from technology, and guides younger students to develop the occupational skill of handwriting.

Extended work time allows students to show mastery of content of a single standard in a variety of ways. You can give multiple versions of one math problem, ask a question various ways in reading, etc. The more independent work, the more students can show their understanding of a concept.

Benefits for Teachers

The more work students are submitting, the easier it is for teachers to find the misconceptions. Teachers can check for understanding by looking at student work before class is over and figure out the gaps in learning in order to address them.

Giving feedback to students on their work will allow teachers also see higher engagement, which can help build relationships.

But what does “supported independent work” mean?

Teachers must find a way to give feedback to students in the moment when they complete their independent work. Whether this is on a Google Doc, in an online learning portal, or on paper — so long as you are acknowledging work!

Another great way to support independent work is to close out the lesson by showing an example of work a student completed that day. It can be work that students fix together or an example of mastery. Either way, this can build a culture of teamwork and pride over work completion.

If you’re looking to push student understanding in your classroom – sit in the silence, break out the pencil and paper, and let kids work. For more than just a 5 minute exit ticket at the end of class. I guarantee both you and your students will grow from it.

About the author: Lis Bluford has taught in high-performing charter schools for ten years, demonstrating exceptional student results. Most recently, her fifth-grade students earned the #1 student growth in the state of Massachusetts. She is currently the Master Educator at EdLight, where she tutors students virtually while prioritizing targeted feedback.

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Klassly: Choosing the Right Communication Platform

Choosing the Right Communication Platform

As educators, we are fortunate that there are many digital communication tools available to help us foster a meaningful home-to-school connection. With so many options, it is important to choose one that offers quality resources, centralizes school information, and which helps educators create a virtual space for students and families to be part of the learning community.

As we have learned even more in this past year, being able to keep families and the school community informed about what is happening inside the classroom, in real-time, strengthens that connection between home and school. At the school and district level, it is essential to implement a comprehensive, consistent and efficient program that meets the needs and preferences of each of its members. Greater family engagement, positively impacts student growth and provides a stronger support system.

Choosing the best platform depends on your specific needs. Teachers need to complete important tasks such as sending class updates, asking for volunteers, scheduling conferences and school events, sharing files and photos, and communicating information to families and more. Administrators have access to the same resources as well as important data to better understand how well communication is happening in their school community.

As we work through transitioning learning environments and challenges, it is critical to have a robust platform that enables schools to better support parents, families and student learning. Especially today, we need access to consistent and reliable communication between home and school to avoid potential disconnect between parental involvement and teacher communication. So which do we choose?

There are two communication platforms that I have been asked about recently: Klassly and ClassDojo. Here are some key features:

Features

Klassly

ClassDojo

Safety Guidelines

COPPA, FERPA and GDPR compliant, parent authorization form. Also has extra verification steps (3 steps to join a class + authorization form of parents)

COPPA, FERPA and GDPR compliant

Parent Engagement

Created for parents to actively participate

Created for parents to observe and stay informed

Language Translation

120+ languages and with voiceover for visually impaired

35+ languages

Private Chat

Yes

Yes

Group Chat

Yes

Yes

Video Conferencing

Yes

No

Contacting the teacher

Functions like social media with reactions and comments on posts – Parent DM requests must be approved by teachers

Quiet hours

Calendar scheduling and meetings

Teachers can post availability or parents can request appointments. Parents can choose a time slot for in-person or videoconferencing.

Not available within the app

Attendance

Yes

Yes

Homework assignments

Assigned and graded. Can include documents, photos, video and voice.

Assigned but not graded within ClassDojo

School Management/school wide announcements

Principals can broadcast posts in each class.

Administrators have Klassboard.

Parents have to check class and school accounts as it is not a centralized system.

Community Building

Parents can comment and see each others’ reactions to posts

or privately connect to organize events. No numbers are exchanged

Parents can comment and see each others’ reactions to post

Media sharing

Similar to Facebook. Multiple multimedia posts (prime) but free multi attachment posts.

Can post multiple pics but not a mix of video, pictures, and documents. Send newsletters

Teacher accounts per class

Multiple per class, as per U.S.

Multiple per class, as per U.S.

Notifications/Quiet time

Teachers set schedules, manage notifications, show availability. Full management

Turn notifications on/off.

Cost

Free with premium features

Free with paid content features

Klassly

What makes Klassly stand out? Klassly is available for classroom, district- or school- wide implementation. School administrators, teachers and parents, whether tech-savvy or not, will find it easy to navigate Klassly and Klassboard to exchange information and carry out essential daily tasks in one centralized space. These tools enable schools to establish consistency in communications which leads to greater family engagement by providing all essential resources in one centralized digital space.

For school and district administrators, relevant data is easier to access through Klassboard. Administrators can link teacher Klassly classes in one space and broadcast messages to the entire community instantly, which helps to foster a strong and vital partnership between school and families. Messages can include audio and video, documents, information about school events as well as polls. Reports show attendance, parent engagement, reach and deliverability of messages, all which helps to promote better communication with families.

Parents have access through push notifications and can quickly learn about student attendance with real-time interactions and feel more connected through timeline posts such as photos from a field-trip or a class presentation, for example. Parents can also contact the teacher about an absence or late arrival.

Klassly offers video conferencing which makes it easier to communicate with families and share the learning happening in the classroom. Klassly, is a comprehensive tool that connects families with their child’s school and the district, all within one centralized space. Schools are better able to provide a more consistent, effective and reliable way to facilitate higher family engagement and better communication between school and home.

ClassDojo is a communication app for teachers, parents, and students. While ClassDojo was initially used more for promoting a positive classroom culture and behavior management, it has evolved into a more expansive platform for teachers to communicate with families.

Students are able to create digital portfolios through the app and include photos and other artifacts of their work. Parents are connected with the learning that is happening in the classroom through messaging features within ClassDojo and teachers can post announcements, send updates, share photos or videos with parents instantly through the messaging of ClassDojo. (These are also features of Klassly). Only teachers can post on the class story but parents can react with hearts to show appreciation. (In Klassly, there are more reactions and parents can give responses that are private and only seen by the teacher or give a signature when the teachers request it in their posts).

In ClassDojo, teachers can create assignments, share lessons, schedule events, post photos and see if messages have been seen and read. Messages can be instantly translated into more than 35 languages and families can set preferences for notifications. Teachers can also set quiet hours to pause notifications and let families know that they are unavailable.

ClassDojo offers the following tools within its app: Classroom Directions, Random Group Generator, Classroom Music, Classroom Noise, Think-Pair-Share, Random Student Selector, Classroom Timer, and Morning Meeting App.

ClassDojo has “Dojocast”which enables the projection of each app from the phone to the smartboard in the classroom.

ClassDojo is available for free and with premium options. It is used in grades K-12 and works on all devices so accessibility does not rely on having a specific phone or computer.

Similarities and differences between ClassDojo and Klassly

Both platforms offer a lot of options, and it may come down to personal preference, school decision or possibly cost involved in using these tools. With both ClassDojo and Klassly, messages are exchanged through two-way communication using any device to share classroom updates, important reminders, files and media which helps to keep families informed of classroom events and learning activities. In both platforms, events can be created which also includes permission slips, sign-up sheets, and the ability to track RSVPS.

So why should schools choose either one of these platforms?

Klassly is a robust platform. For teachers, it integrates features such as a messaging app, calendar, event planner and more into one safe and user-friendly platform. It enables teachers and parents to communicate through messaging instantly, privately, and as often as needed. For principals, it has a school management platform (Klassboard), which is not available through ClassDojo.

Klassly is a tool that I have used and recommended often because it provides many features that save time and promote more family engagement. Klassly facilitates timely, relevant and secure communication (extra verification steps) between home and school through push notifications with real-time interactions. Klassly takes multiple tasks and communicative needs (messaging, attendance and gradebook portal, event planner, calendar) that schools and teachers are currently using and unifies them in one easy to use and widely accessible platform.

18 Resources to Get Students Coding This Year

Each year during December, there’s a focus on coding and computational thinking. Computer Science Education Week is happening December 9th-15th this year and there are a lot of great ways to get involved. A few years ago I first learned about the Hour of Code, and immediately referred to the Code.org website to find activities for my eighth grade STEAM class. Just getting started, I didn’t know much about the resources available and thought this was the best way to provide some activities for my students to join in during the week. It was fun to sign up to participate in the events of the day and see from where around the world other classrooms were joining in from. But beyond that one day, and actually, that one hour, we didn’t really do much more in my class. I asked colleagues and members of my PLN about their activities for the Hour of Code and coding throughout the year, and many stated that they didn’t know how to implement more in their classrooms. It was then that I recognized the need to provide more ways for students to learn about coding and computational thinking, and that as educators, we must actively look for opportunities for our students. We need to push past an Hour of Code and do more in our classrooms.

Preparing Ourselves

For some educators, topics like coding and computational thinking can seem challenging to bring into the classroom and for them to know enough to feel confident in teaching students about these topics. I was one of those educators. My comfort level changed when I had to create a game using Hopscotch for a master’s course and I struggled a lot. It was uncomfortable to not be able to fully understand the coding process, but it pushed me to keep learning and to start using Hopscotch with my eighth graders. I learned a lot from my students and it was a great opportunity to put myself in their place as they learn something new. Realizing that it is okay to not know all of the answers is a valuable lesson.

Another hurdle was to learn more about computational thinking, a topic that I had avoided because of a fear of not understanding it enough and thinking it did not apply to my role as a Spanish teacher. It was an area that intimidated me because I believed it to be so complex.

However, I recently took a Computational Thinking (CT) course provided by ISTE U, which definitely stretched me professionally and provided a solid foundation full of resources for doing more with these topics in my classroom. We need to find ways to give our students and ourselves an opportunity to learn about topics like coding and computational thinking and how they apply in our daily lives and how it could possibly benefit us in the future.

Where to Begin

There are so many resources out there that sometimes knowing exactly where to start presents the challenge. It is easy to get started by referring to the Code.org site or checking out CS First from Google and resources for educators. There are some apps and websites to get started with coding and computational thinking. Some of these can be used specifically with elementary students in grade bands pre-reader through two, three through five, and six plus, and others that are specific to middle school or high school. Several of these options offer ways to search based on topic, level or type of activity. What I like the most is that they are fun ways for educators to get started with coding and CT, with the ability to decide how to apply them to our own work.

Start with Code.org or CS First from Google, and then explore these 18 resources to check out what specifically to use during the Hour of Code and Computer Science Week, or take the time and try each of these out over the course of a couple of weeks. Have your students explore and continue learning right along with your students.

18 Sites to Explore

Artist. Use this as a way to have students begin coding with blocks to complete tasks to build their coding skills.

Code.org. Explore this link to find a list of resources and different activities and to sign up to participate in the Hour of Code. There are more than 500 one hour tutorials that are available in more than 45 languages.

Code Combat is a game based computer program for older students who want to learn about Javascript or Python. In Code Combat, students type in their code and see their characters respond in real-time.

Code Monster is an easy way to get younger students to learn more about code. Two boxes on the screen show the code and what the code does, with explanations popping up to show students what happens with each command.

CoSpacesEDU Robot Rattle. Students learn to operate a robot and the activity includes a tutorial video. Using blocks and drag and drops, students can write the instructions for the robot and then if devices are available, the robot can be seen performing the tasks as written in the code in virtual reality (VR).

Hopscotch is for use with iPads and has specific activities available for the Hour of Code but offers many options for students to create their own games or to remix games that are available.

Turtle Art. Students use block coding like Scratch but through the use of one turtle and mathematics to do the programming.  Students can create their own work of art or remix someone else’s painting.

Science

Explore Mars with Scratch. Students in grades three through eight can create a Mars exploration game using Scratch. Through this lesson, students work through activities and build their math, computational thinking, and problem-solving skills. There is also the option for an extension activity for students in grades K-12 to do an independent project.

Multi-topics

Code-it studio is for use with grades two and up and offers students the chance to program art and designs.

CodeSpark. Students up to grade five can design and code a video game using the self-paced activity available through this site.

Code an Unusual Discovery. Using Scratch and CS First from Google, students can work through on their own and create a story using code.

Khan Academy Code. For grades six and up students can watch an interactive talk-through, work through challenges or decide to do their own project. Everything that students need for coding is available directly through the website. Students can also learn to code by making a website in HTML tags and CSS.

Kodable. Activities for students in grades two through five, offering Javascript for students in upper elementary grades. There are activities for social studies, science, ELA, math and more with levels from beginning to advanced. Students can even choose their own adventure.

Minecraft Hour of Code. A free Hour of Code lesson was developed by Microsoft’s AI for Earth team. In the lesson, students in grades two and up use code to prevent forest fires. There is also a free online course for educators to learn how to run an Hour of Code lesson in their school.

Robo-Restaurant Decorator. Students in grade two and up can program a robot to paint a restaurant and the algorithms must be done correctly

Star Wars. The first activity we tried was working through the activities provided using the Star Wars theme. Activities are available for students in grades two and up. Learn to code with Blocks and Javascript.

Tynker offers a lot of activities for students to participate and learn about coding, specially curated for the Hour of Code. Activities are grouped for students in the ranges of K-two, three-five and six plus. Options available include text coding, STEM activities, and the new UN+ which is focused on ecological issues such as life on land, responsible consumption and affordable and clean energy.

VidCode is an online platform that offers opportunities for teachers to explore computer science curriculum or individual lessons related to coding. For the Hour of Code, explore the Climate Science coding activity.

Another option is to have students learn about the Hour of Code, its origin and different terms related to coding and then use some of the game-based learning tools out there like Kahoot! To help students develop a better understanding of the basics of coding. Try one of these ideas out for some fun ways to get students involved with coding and use the game as a starting point for class discussion.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

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When they are empowered!

DeidreroemerUncategorized  April 10, 2021 6 Minutes

Guest post by @deidre_roemer DeidreroemerUncategorized  April 10, 2021 6 Minutes

One of the many things I have really missed in the last year is my time in schools talking to our learners. I typically spend about sixty percent of my time in classrooms with teachers and students in a “normal” year. I have missed that chance to hear about their learning and see the learner experience through their eyes. While we were still virtual, I was able to join some online classes, but it wasn’t quite the same as the connections I could make face-to-face. Now that we have been back in our physical schools for a few months, I am cautious not to go into too many classrooms in person each week as that would be tough to contact trace. I am affectionately known as “that lady” in many of our schools. I hear kids say things like, “That lady is back. Get ready; she’s going to ask you a lot of questions.” They all learn my name while I am there and then usually forget it between visits. I miss being “that lady”!

I was lucky enough to get the chance to be the substitute for one of our amazing teachers recently. It was a learning community of eighteen five and six-year-olds who were having their first day of in-person learning on the day I was there. It was the first time all year they had been together as an entire class. It was such an honor to get to welcome them and attempt to follow the beautifully written lesson plans from the teacher. As we did an opening community circle and moved in to do some opinion writing, a sense of incredible pride overwhelmed me. Although these learners had been virtual for most of the year and then hybrid for a few weeks, they had such a strong sense of community. Two students were new to the class that day, and the others were anxious to welcome them and show them the ropes. With a stranger in the room, they were comfortable sharing what they know and talking through challenges. They were excited to show what they had learned and made sure they included everyone. I watched what an empowered five or six-year-old could do and was blown away. They had a sense of belonging and a desire to work through anything. They were vocal when they got stuck and exactly what help they needed to be successful.

I sent this to the teacher at the end of the day:

Thank you for allowing me to be a guest in your beautiful learning community today. You have obviously done some amazing work to create a space where your learners feel confident and included.  

They ranked themselves, and 10 gave the class a thumbs up on the day, 6 gave themselves a thumbs medium, and 2 were at speech when we took the poll. We collected some evidence of why we really should get a thumbs-up:

  • We welcomed new friends kindly into our learning community.
  • We did a great job on our reading.
  • We did a great job on our opinion writing.
  • We listened right away when we needed to come in from recess.
  • We were flexible in our thinking as so much was new today.

I was so impressed with their ability to advocate for themselves, support each other when things got tough, and be reflective in their work. They were joyful and curious all day long and yet not afraid to challenge things at the same time. I also asked them for feedback throughout the day on how I was doing. They fired me twice in the morning but then hired me back to be the substitute again at the end of the day. 

A few weeks ago, I also had the opportunity to host an open meeting with some of our high school students. I asked them about what was going well for them this year and what else they need from school. They were as articulate and honest as the five and six-year-olds. We talked openly about how they felt about virtual and hybrid learning, where this year was challenging in and out of school, and how they felt about our curriculum. Many of them were happy to be back in school and some were anxious to know if we would have a virtual option next year because that has worked better for them. They had many positive things to say about their teachers and their opportunities in our schools.  

They also gave me some things to work on. They asked that we incorporate more Mindfulness lessons throughout the day. They do Mindfulness activities in their homerooms, but not often enough to be really useful. They asked for classes in mental wellness to find balance and better understand mental health issues. A few of the learners in the meeting are on our Hope Squad at their school and shared how powerful it is to really understand mental health needs as well as how to look out for their peers.  

I asked if they felt prepared for life after high school and, for the most part, they felt confident except in the area of financial literacy. One of our graduation requirements is to take a financial literacy course, but they didn’t feel like the course goes far enough. We will be asking students to join us in curriculum writing for the course going forward as they know exactly what they need. Many of them talked about project-based learning experiences that empower them to find their voices in school and learn what they want to do after high school.  

There were about forty students in the online meeting from our three high schools who were participating in a variety of opportunities at school. Almost every student spoke up and shared something. The confidence I could hear in their responses was impressive especially given that it was a very mixed group of students with different interests, aptitudes, and school experiences. No matter where they were coming from and how successful they were by traditional measures, they were all able to speak up for real and honest things that they need from school. I will be hosting a few more before the end of the school year and will continue it next year. Hearing truly empowered learners advocate for themselves and recognize success was incredible. 

Each year, we go to our community to share what has been happening in our schools with our finances, learning, and upcoming developments in our district. Last year, I invited groups of learners to attend the sessions to speak about our work. If we are working to empower them, then they should be the ones sharing their own progress. This year, the meetings were virtual, so it was even easier to facilitate learners’ attendance to discuss their learner experience. In one presentation, a ten-year-old asked to share his screen to show the community a video game he created in math class to demonstrate his knowledge. Teachers shared videos of learners creating and making things who could articulate the standards they had mastered or the content knowledge they had gained through what they built. We saw art projects that demonstrated knowledge of literature and learners talking about using new technology tools to create podcasts to create a dystopian universe. All of the examples demonstrated rigorous learning tied to the interest of our learners. It was so powerful! 

We didn’t tell the teachers which students to choose, just that we wanted a group from elementary, intermediate, and high school at each of the three meetings. Our staff choose a wonderfully diverse group of learners. We had learners with special needs, some choosing virtual learning, learners in our advanced placement classes, and learners who have needed additional support in school. It was so incredible that no matter which student I asked, they could all share how they feel inspired and supported at school. They talked about what Deeper Learning means to them and how their learning is about trying, getting feedback, and iterating until they get an artifact that shows what they know. They were confident and articulate and so excited to present to an audience. You could hear the pride they felt in their work and themselves.  

Our empowered learners are also starting to challenge us more, which I love! They send emails to our Superintendent and me advocating for what they want to see in our schools. They come to our school board meeting and speak in open comment about how they think we should do something. Watching them feel the confidence to speak up, ask for what they need, and challenge ideas they disagree with is inspiring. We aren’t always able to grant what they are asking for when they ask for it, but they are helping us shape how we allocate some resources and write curriculum in new ways.  

I love the quote from AJ Juliani, “Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything.” Our learners, at all ages and learning formats, are starting to demonstrate that they are ready for anything, and that we’ve helped prepare them to do it all with confidence and grace. 

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

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EdLight

Sponsored post, All Opinions are my own

In the past year, we have seen the use of digital tools increase as many schools transitioned from in-person to fully virtual and hybrid learning environments. Educators have sought new ideas, whether tools or methods, in particular for assessing students in these digital spaces.

A few months ago I learned about​ EdLight, a​ digital tool that enables teachers to get a closer look at student work and provide authentic, meaningful and timely feedback to students in a variety of ways.

How does EdLight Work?

EdLight is a web-based app that gives teachers the chance to see student work as it is submitted. What I love about EdLight is that students can write or draw simply using paper and pencils, and submit their work directly to teachers. All student work can be viewed in the teacher dashboard. For each student’s submission, teachers can provide feedback using some of the different tools available within the platform. Students are able to use any device to submit work. EdLight integrates with Google Classroom and Clever which makes it easier to get started with, and you can also share a link with students to upload their assignment.

As students submit their work, it appears in the teacher dashboard where teachers can view student responses and provide targeted feedback. You can draw or write onto the student work, add stickers, or provide audio feedback which is something that I really appreciate about EdLight. Being able to explain or provide additional insight to students, especially when working in hybrid or fully virtual learning environments, makes a big difference.

Having taught in hybrid learning for half of the school year, finding tools that enable students to work on the same task and for us to be able to access their work and provide immediate and personalized feedback regardless of where they are learning from is essential.

I first used EdLight with my Spanish III class and they enjoyed using it. I provided a writing prompt for them to submit in Spanish. It was easy to see their work and use the different tools available to provide more specific feedback. I could underline or draw charts, and provide audio feedback as well. EdLight works on multiple devices so students don’t have to worry about having a specific device to be able to respond.

Teachers can also ask students to revise their work and resubmit it for further evaluation, which helps to complete the learning cycle.

It is easy to get started with and navigate the EdLight website, and teacher dashboard to create assignments, find student work, and track student progress. I love being able to see student work whether they are writing a response or illustrating a concept.

Benefits of EdLight

EdLight helps to promote greater awareness of student learning and facilitates better communication between students and teachers through the tools available within the platform to provide feedback.

It provides students with a way to look back at their work and see the feedback that they received, and plan their next steps in their learning journey. For teachers, being able to see student work in real time and be able to provide that feedback, especially for those students who are not present in the classroom makes a big difference.

You can also set this up to be used as a digital portfolio for students and explore some of the other ideas available in the blog on EdLight.

Here are a few options:

  • Have students do a drawing to express learning.
  • Take a picture of something they are reading and annotate or summarize it
  • Have students show the process of learning or solving problems for example in math or science classes.
  • Create student portfolios using EdLight

EdLight is a wonderful option for formative assessments, whether that means an entrance or an exit ticket or simply to use during class, especially if working in a hybrid environment. As we think about the next school year, wondering what tools we might keep that made a difference for us this year, I think this is the perfect opportunity to try some new tools to see what a difference they make for our students in our classroom.

Teachers can sign up to try EdLight for free and there are different types of accounts available for individual teachers or school or district licenses. Click here for a walkthrough and be sure to follow them on social! Twitter, Instagram Facebook

About the Author

Rachelle Dene Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past-president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and has received several Presidential Gold Awards for volunteer service to education.

Rachelle is the author of five books, ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” (EduMatch) and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World” and her newest book, “True Story Lessons That One Kid Taught Us.”

She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, District Administration, NEO LMS, and the STEM Informer with Newsweek.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.

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